The Harmonizers, a community action project of Furman University’s Diversity Leaders Initiative, developed a series of concert programs that are sensory friendly for children and adults who are neurodiverse.
Neurodiversity refers to variation in the brain’s ability to progress sociability, learning, attention, mood and other functions. The group partnered with area health organizations and the SC Philharmonic to create a symphonic concert series that allows those with sensory sensitivities to experience live symphonic music without restrictions. In a typical concert experience, the audience is expected to sit quietly and listen attentively, often for a long period of time. With a neurodiverse individual, they may shout out in excitement, or move around the room. They may feel the need to get close to the performer, or they may wish to leave the room in the middle of the performance because can only take this type of musical stimulation for a short period of time.
We are enlisting the guidance of music therapists and behavioral specialists who can assist our musicians and volunteers with cultural competencies around unique sensitivities. We will provide an experience that will be attentive to the potential concerns of over- or under-stimulation, and allow for a fulfilling concert experience. By presenting these concerts in environments that understand the needs of sensory sensitive individuals, we are creating a musical experience where the attendees will have the freedom to express themselves and not be scolded or removed because of their behavior.
The first concert will occur Tuesday, March 16, 2021, 10:00 AM at Babcock Center, which provides housing and vocational training to support individuals with lifelong disabilities. The second concert will occur Wednesday, March 17, 2020, 10:00 AM at Glenforest School, which provides specialized education. We will treat these two concerts as a pilot series in 2021, with the hope of not only launching an annual series of sensory-friendly concerts, but also providing a foundation for other non-profit performance and arts organizations to use as a model for their own program development.